Articles On How Online Learning Facilitate Employed Persons

People working in a professional setting tend to rely on the knowledge and expertise of others to accomplish their tasks. For people in careers where it is important to supplement their knowledge with professional-level articles, sources, and research, online education provides a simple but powerful alternative to the conventional educational path.

Emma Graves FitzGerald

Too many people and companies don’t treat them well. As the digital revolution progresses, so do some new injustices that combine digital tyranny and technologies of mass surveillance. Teaching empathy to anxious adults isn’t going to be enough. Social and economic systems fail to give us the chances and opportunities to succeed, and it’s dangerous to depend on the digital to foster and support positive change. But it’s also imperative to consider how technological innovations have enabled individuals and organizations to develop and operate differently and how these innovations—being able to turn bits into ideas into workers, for example—have been met with derision and disruption.

The Wold Bankament has been following many developments that reflect what’s going on in the world of technology. One is Kano—a $100 box that you can build yourself. Kano’s system is designed to teach children to learn through coding. By making this approach simple, accessible, and open source, it’s a model for other groups to follow. It challenges the conventional thinking that training a workforce is a function of centuries of experience and structured knowledge processes. Kano offers a teaching approach that will enable working people to learn to code and to see how computers learn as they do.

Another interesting project is Professional Learning Pathway (PLP), a two-year course that emphasizes working people’s skills through exploring how technologies of mass surveillance are used to undermine good governance. The goal is to introduce working people to the institutions of government that have the power to capture power through mechanisms like social media and algorithms. People learn how to be a critical citizen in an era where only by recognizing how these mechanisms operate can we begin to dismantle them.

Gwyneth Ahern is co-founder of PRI and teaching corp at Danforth School of the Arts & Design in Toronto, which will be offering a regular courses on artificial intelligence and the digital economy. She said that one thing they’ve learned over the years of working with people in high-needs communities is that they often don’t think outside of the box. In the past, getting people to learn in a different way can mean going to a book and learning about a subject. In AI, it may be simpler to say, “Let’s just look at that website and look at how they’re doing things.”

“What about studying a black-and-white Google Page Rank for a certain search term and finding out that it matches ‘Jim Cramer’? That’s not going to get us where we need to go,” she said. “It’s about examining and using this technology to allow people to engage in meaningful ways. Because that’s the real value: In engaging with other people. I’ve been blown away by how people take to this stuff,” she added. “They’re excited. It’s a different way of engaging and it’s bringing people together.”

In addition to machine learning and virtual reality as a learning method, we’re seeing people reinventing education with various methods of sharing, all around the growing use of training as a primary form of job development. In 2020, One Hour a Week—a nonprofit that supports social entrepreneurs around the world—will be training 50,000 graduates in the United States every year. The social enterprise has developed a program called Backpacks—a marketplace for job training that allows organizations to adopt students who are coming out of community colleges with low-level skills, and to extend their programs beyond any single degree program. These internships involve help-seeking, interview preparation, and instruction in a variety of topics with the idea that graduates can access work in low-wage industries like healthcare and retail.

Over the last two decades, we’ve seen universities become increasingly knowledge-centric, and employers increasingly concerned with needing to acquire the skills necessary to be successful in what is likely to be a significantly different workplace in the near future. While virtual and online learning methods are becoming a more and more common aspect of employment-training, they are not in themselves a replacement for a real-world classroom—and every method should take into account the needs of the company in the community where it is being provided. Whatever methods we do use to train people will be guided by the population we are training in a particular scenario. So, while virtual and online platforms aren’t a panacea, they can be an extremely effective tool to supplement and complement a student’s in-person curriculum.

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